July 4th Memories

My friend John Ziegler posted this nostalgic look back at July 4th celebrations on Facebook.  Hope you all enjoy it.

As kids we were keenly aware that the Fourth of July, had been federally designated to celebrate our nation’s independence so first thing that morning we put on our  shorts, white tee shirts and Keds, ready to run fast, make noise and eat ice cream. Teddy and Frankie came to the back porch with green carbide canons, tubes of Bangsite, and strings of fire crackers Teddy smuggled from Canada during a fishing trip. We had sparklers and candy. There was always candy involved. Mr. Mallory’s Corner Grocery had glass cases dazzling with penny candy, so our pockets were sticky with sweet, colorful wads.

The next door neighbor had a vintage ice cream maker, with rotating wooden barrel, chain driven, filled with ice and rock salt that surrounded the steel canister of ingredients, cream, sugar, cherries or strawberries. The process started in the morning with the ice cream finally ready at dusk.

Eagerly awaited, this was a day of adventure. After a bike ride to the vacant field behind the Masonic Temple we lay in the warm grass watching clouds evolve. Out of curiosity and a rasher of bravado, Frankie laid a fire cracker across his sneaker and lit it with an Ohio Blue Tip. The fuse sparked, grew short, disappeared and when the little red tube exploded, Frankie jumped three feet and bellowed like a mule. He walked with a limp the next few hours but recovered by the time foot races began with Albert Cassone.

Albert Cassone was an odd man of sixty something who lived in a brick row house a couple of blocks down Franklin Street. Black business pants, pressed white shirt open at the collar and wing tip dress shoes he arrived in our back alley with a pocket full of coins to challenge any and all in a foot race to the third black tar line, for a dime. Everyone got in line, everyone ran faster than wind. Everyone got dimes.

Late in the day the parents whistled the family signal to come home for the picnic. We easily ate three or four loaded hot dogs from the charcoal grill, along with macaroni salad, baked beans, carrot strips, black olives followed by a couple of kinds of cake and finally the home made ice cream. We hardly ever threw up.

When the sky finally grew dusky, fireworks lit up the fairgrounds, loud and bright, concussions shook the air, clouds of smoke softly disappeared in the dark, the whole world drifted in a dream and the country was secured in independence for another year.

 John Ziegler

First Cigarette

Teddy strikes a Bogart pose…

My friend John Ziegler doesn’t publish much poetry, but he should.  Maybe this will give him a shove.  His ability to capture a moment in time is so fine.  Some atta boys from readers might help.

Skinny bare legs over
the edge of the garage roof,
Measle takes a drag
on the unfiltered Pall Mall,
coughs like a clogged lawnmower.
Teddy strikes a Bogart pose,
heavy eyelids,
cig between thumb and forefinger.
Chippy lets a smoke feather
trail from her delicious lips,
Detective Magazine,
the guy looming, fedora
the woman dreamy.
Reverend Cartwright hollers from the window,
shakes a dust mop.  “Calling the cops!”
We walk Chippy under the linden trees,
sit on her porch,
no one ready to go home
to Dad parking the Plymouth,
the dog shivering with joy,
ham and boiled cabbage,
Grandma calling in the dark
for a half a glass of water.

– John Ziegler